10 Essential Viewings from Japan’s World of Animation

  1. Cowboy Bebop

IMDB: 8.9

Synopsis: Science fiction animated TV series detailing the adventures and tragedies of a bounty hunter and his crew. Led by the accredited Shinichirō Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop is an episodic show filled with existentialism, romance, action, and fantastic storytelling. Cowboy Bebop is a whole mood in of itself, boasting its own unique aesthetic which has been used as inspiration time and time again. A true classic with a lot of depth. The main protagonist Spike Spiegel is as cool as they get, especially while smoking a cigarette.

  1. One Piece 

IMDB: 8.8

Synopsis: Revolving around one of the greatest main characters to come out of any animated series, One Piece follows Monkey D. Luffy who aspires to become the pirate king. One Piece is filled with adventure, comedy, tragedy, and of course a lot of fun. Being one of the longest running manga and anime series (coming up to its 1000th episode), One Piece is quite the project! The world building created within this show is truly outstanding and is hard to top and for that reason alone everyone should check it out. Watching is definitely a commitment, but it’s worth every minute of it. 

  1. Studio Ghibli 


Synopsis: I have placed the Studio Ghibli films on this list because I truly believe they are some of the highest quality pieces of art I have ever seen. As mentioned in an earlier post, Hayao Miyazaki’s ability to create a sense of nostalgia within his films are unparalleled. Miyazaki’s films are a sublime spectacle to behold and must be experienced by any film fan. Like One Piece, the world building within Studio Ghibli is stunning, however I must say when it comes to the best of the best, Miyazaki wins this with flying colours. 

“Many of my movies have strong female leads- brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.” – Miyazaki

  1. Naruto

IMDB: 8.6

Synopsis: The tale of Naruto Uzumaki takes you on his journey to becoming the Hokage in his village. Naruto is filled with life lessons, comedy, and some of the most skilled combat animation. There is a ton of meaning placed in this show’s story and characters, creating some of the most complex and interesting characters in the world of anime. Characters such as Kakashi have had attempts at being replicated time after time, but none have succeeded in copying the copy ninja.

  1. Samurai Champloo

IMDB: 8.5

Synopsis: Directed by the same director as Cowboy Bebop, Shinichirō Watanabe manages to display why he is one of the best… again. Samurai Champloo tells the story of Mugen and Jin, sworn enemies who choose to cooperate while on a task set by a woman named Fuu to find the samurai who smells like sunflowers. Taking on a hip-hop twist, this show demonstrates its originality and authentic style, thus solidifying itself as a classic. Similar to Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo is filled with humor and action, yet is serious and heartfelt simultaneously. Most importantly however, it is one badass show if you love samurai’s and sword action. 

  1. Attack on Titan

IMDB: 9.0

Synopsis: In a world where man-eating titans exist, humans have found safety behind massive walls that stop titans from killing them. This is until a colossal titan appears one day, breaking down a wall and bringing titans in, leading to our main protagonist’s (Eren Yeager) mother being killed. From this day on, Eren Yeager vows to rid the world from the titans that destroyed his hometown and killed his mother. This show is near impossible to describe without including spoilers so that will have to be all. However, this show is a modern classic and you have enough time to get all caught up before the release of the final season in 2022. 

  1. Hunter x Hunter (2011)

IMDB: 9.0

Synopsis: Gon Freecss is on a mission to become a hunter, an individual capable of great things, so that he can find his father who left him when he was younger. Hunter x Hunter can at times be dark and fairly disturbing, but also impressively comedic. This mix of genres gives a good contrast to highlight all the serious moments in the show, and in particular making the darker moments seem as evil as possible. Gon doesn’t embark on this journey alone, finding many friends along the way, one in particular, his best-friend, named Killua. 

  1. Neon-Genesis Evangelion

IMDB: 8.5

Synopsis: Neon Genesis Evangelion, a classic Sci-Fi show that is as confusing as it is great. Shinji Ikari is recruited by his dictator of a father to join an elite group of pilots to fight against violent monsters that have descended upon earth to destroy humanity. Shinji and the rest of the group pilot huge machines that seem to have a mind of their own. Although the monsters are a great danger to humanity, the troubles that people go through within Neon Genesis Evangelion are depicted as an even greater risk at times. A deeply philosophical show that delves into themes of loneliness and existentialism and a must watch for those who like old school animation. There are also a few films depicting different endings of the show which are available on Amazon Prime. 

  1. Steins;Gate 

IMDB: 8.8

Synopsis: Rintarou Okabe discovers time travel and must use this to stop an evil organisation whilst also fighting against the inevitable ripple effects of time traveling. As with most shows about time travel, this can get very confusing, but never too much to stop you watching. The show switches from highly intelligent story lines to raw and heart-breaking scenes, giving it a great balance and earning itself a spot on this list. It starts off fairly slow paced for the first half and then the second half will blow you away. Steins;Gate takes the viewer on a crazy journey through different points in time with the one and only mad scientist, Okarin. 

  1.  Bleach

IMDB: 8.1

Synopsis: Born with the ability to see ghosts or ‘shinigami’, Ichigo Kurosaki becomes a soul reaper after his family are attacked by a “hollows”. Ichigo is now committed to protecting the lives of the innocent whilst constantly improving his abilities. Part of the ‘big three’ alongside One Piece and Naruto, Bleach is another classic. One of the best when it comes to action, Bleach also has some of the best fight scenes and badass characters.

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